Census takers get to be nosy. They ask questions polite people don't.
How much do you earn? What language do you speak around the dinner table? Did you drop out of high school? What's your monthly mortgage? Are you unmarried and living with a "partner"? Do you have a mental disability?
Those and dozens of other questions are asked annually for the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
Here's the fun part: Those surveyed are required by law to answer every question, and everybody in the world gets to know what they said.
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Well, sort of. The Census Bureau actually goes to extreme lengths to protect the privacy of those it polls. Answers get grouped together and reported for cities, counties, states and the nation.
The 2007 American Community Survey was released today for communities with 65,000 residents or more, including Modesto, Turlock and Merced.
The statistics reveal just how different the Northern San Joaquin Valley's population is from the rest of the country.
Valley residents are younger, have more babies and larger families. They're less educated, too, and are far less likely to have graduated from college.
There's a much higher percentage of foreign-born residents and a much lower percentage of U.S. citizens living here than elsewhere in the United States. Valley residents are more likely to speak Spanish.
Thousands of such social statistics about each community can be accessed online.